Teaching Resources: English Idioms

Download materials and use them with your class!


Achilles' heel

A weak part of someone’s character, which could cause them to fail at something
Example: Greg is a good student, but written tests are his Achilles' heel


Actions speak louder than words

Said to emphasize that what you do is more important and shows your intentions and feelings more clearly than what you say
Example: Team USA is not expected to win, but they believe actions speak louder than words.


A friend in need is a friend indeed

Someone who helps you when 
you truly need it is a real friend.
Example: When Kate stayed with me to help me while others went to play, I understood the meaning of "a friend in need is a friend indeed".

An Indian summer

A period of warm weather which sometimes happens in early autumn.

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Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

Each person has their own idea of what is beautiful. If something is beautiful or not depends on the opinion of the person who is looking at it.
Example: I don't think Ariana's new boyfriend is very attractive, but I guess beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Big Brother is watching you

This phrase is taken from George Orwell's novel 1984, meaning that one's actions and intentions are being carefully watched and monitored by the government, which has the intention to restrict people's freedom and control and suppress their will. Download the worksheet below to improve your students' vocabulary.


Break the ice

To make people feel more relaxed and willing to talk to each other in a social situation.

Build bridges

To try to establish a better relationship between people who do not like each other
Example: Peter needs to try and build bridges with Lizzie because they have to work on an important school project together.

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Chill out

This expression means informal to relax completely instead of feeling angry, tired or nervous.
Example: I spent the afternoon chilling out in front of the TV.


Every cloud has a silver lining

This expression means that there is something good even in a situation that seems very sad or difficult. You can use it to encourage a person who is in a bad situation and tell them not to lose hope.
Example: My holiday trip has been cancelled, but every cloud has a silver lining.I am now free to go to my best friend's birthday party!

Glued to the screen

With the variety and quality of entertainment and information available to boys and girls nowadays, it's hard not to always be glued to a screen!


Knock someone down with a feather

An idiom used to express extreme surprise or astonishment when a person finds out about something.
Example: When they told me I had won, you could have knocked me down with a feather.


It runs in the family

If something such as a quality, disease, or skill "runs in the family", it means that many people in that family have it.
Example: Emily and her mother are both very beautiful. Good looks must run in the family.

It's Greek to me

If you say "it's Greek to me", you are admitting that you do not understand something. (This is one of many phrases invented by Shakespeare, which first appeared in his play The Tragedy of Julius Caesar).
Yesterday I received a letter in German.
What did it say?
I don't know, it's all Greek to me!

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It’s not rocket science

It’s not difficult.
Example: Jeff: How do I bake these cupcakes?
Emily: Come on, just follow the recipe, it’s not rocket science!

Jazz Something Up

(informal) to make something more attractive or exciting.
Example: She jazzes up a basic muffins recipe with chocolate chips, nuts and dried cranberries.
My friend told me that I should jazz up my wardrobe.

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Man up!

Used to tell someone that they should deal with something more bravely.
Example: I can't sit around all day – someone's got to bring home the bacon.

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Music makes the world go round

Spoken used to say that normal, ordinary things cannot happen without music.
Example: I love going to music festivals and singing and dancing with people of different ages and from different places; it's true, music makes the world go round.